Lapa in Rio

Rio is a multi-faceted city. Certainly tourism and the beach are clearly marked with Carnaval being a mix of native culture and a bit of tourism. Lapa on the other hand is a facet that makes Rio a party city like no other. São Paulo doesn't party like Lapa. No American city could possibly party like Lapa. Since I took no photos (because I was trying to enjoy the party instead of documenting it) I will try to describe it. Start with multiple crowds of people in the street. They are blocking off the streets around Lapa's main attraction, Arcos da Lapa, an aqueduct made in the 18th century (1780s). Take floats playing music. Then add twenty or thirty clubs that are packed to capacity and have long lines. Then play Brazilian funk in a party that it so packed that it's instantly claustrophobic. Then add hundreds of beer vendors on the street selling beer for approx $2 USD. This wasn't the bloco, but it was partially caused by it. The bloco was much larger and went down Rua Rio Branco.

Beyond Lapa, there is the party that spans all neighborhoods. This is not a public party and it isn't specific to Rio. It's smaller in São Paulo but exists there as well. Wherever there is a good bar, people around gather and have a party. In typical Brazilian fashion, everyone knows everyone else in their clique and outsiders can only get in by meeting someone. Once they've verified that you are cool and not a gringo, you're in. In my case, they verified that I was a gringo but not just a stupid tourist. How does that happen? I am writing an extensive essay on the strengths and weaknesses of Brazilian social networks from the point of view of a novice Brazilian Portuguese speaker. I haven't gotten conclusive results and examples, but it will be an interesting read.

But more to the point, what did I actually do in Lapa? My friend and I met and talked with some cool people. There were a pair of college students who were really nice and went to Lapa to enjoy themselves. There were the pair of girls who were really interested in my friend and me. One spoke Japanese, so I talked with her for a bit. I forgot all my Japanese on the spot though. Similarly later in the night, a girl asked me to sing and I forgot all the songs I know. Wouldn't it have been cool if I had sang "I'm an alligator, I'm a mama papa coming for you, I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n rolling bitch for you. Keep your mouth shut. You're squawking like a big monkey bird and I'm bustin' out my brains for the words. Take me baby, make me know you really care, make me jump into the air. Keep your electric eye on me babe. Put your raygun to my head. Press your space face close to mine love. Freak out in a moonage daydream oh yeah." -- Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars "Moonage Daydream". Of course I forgot it. Instead I sang a few lines from Frank Sinatra's "You brought a new kind of love to me" and Gilberto Gil's "Oslodum". I taught myself these songs when someone asked me to sing last year and I blanked. Of course I completely failed to sing in tune because I was a bit drunk. But we talked for a bit about rock, what types of things we were interested in. My Brazilian Portuguese may be awful, but I can ask and answer dozens of interesting questions. If you've ever played 20 questions, you know that by the end, you know the person a bit too well. Let's play shall we?

Read more »

Rio's Rainy Season

It's the weeks leading up to Carnaval in Rio and it's the rainy season. It's raining. It's warm, but not too warm. Do you swim in the beautiful ocean when it's raining? Sure, why not? I haven't swam in the ocean yet, but I will. I haven't seen Cristo Redentor yet, but I will.

A new friend told me about Blocos in Rio which will be interesting. Blocos are a block party with tons of people in the street. The music is samba. It's something pretty unique. My friend told me that between Christmas and Carnaval is pretty much mired by parties. Imagine the entire month of January being a slow month because people are partying too much. I could deal with that. In Seattle, January is a fairly slow month usually because it's too cold. But that's never stopped me from working, mostly it has stopped me from partying.

Lavandarias. It's time for a talk about laundry. I'm wearing swimming trunks right now because of a laundry problem that has been following me since Friday. I've been wearing dirty clothes for 4 days now. You can blame this on me not being prepared, but that's not the real story. I have 4 sets of clothes. Like my father said, "shirt/pant/short/sock/day". So on Friday I have one set of clean clothes. Time to do laundry, right? It's São Paulo's anniversary, so the lavandaria is closed. No problem, they'll be open tomorrow. Saturday I show up on their doorstep and they are closed again. I go to a different lavandaria six blocks away. They quote me 100 Reals ($50). I'm ready to pay the extortionary rate because I don't want to wear dirty clothes for 2 days. They say, your clothes will be ready on Monday morning. It's 10am on Saturday. Could you please finish them by 5pm? Não. I lost it quietly and walked out of there with my dirty clothes. 100 Reals and 2 days? Remember that laundry in America involves $5 in quarters and 1.5 hours. I take the bus to Rio and arrive at 7pm. Lavandaria is closed of course, because they close at 5pm. How many laundry's survive only being open 9-5? So I buy some clothes to wear. This morning I go to the lavandaria at 10:30 and I hand over my clothes. It's only 30 Reals. 5pm tomorrow. Can you wash them by tomorrow morning? Não. She thinks I don't understand what she's saying. Amanha cinco tarde. It must take 16 hours to wash clothes at that lavandaria.

Read more »

Going back

I want to go back to Brasil next month for H2HC which is a simultaneous bilingual security conference. I've heard good things. It seems unlikely that I'll make it. I have a lot to do this fall and that would eat a month. It seems more reasonable for me to spend a month in January. You know what that means.

A month in Brasil! I am looking forward to it so much. I'm listening to Brazilian Portuguese everyday and I hope to learn enough to understand when I listen to a fast conversation. How do you do that? It's difficult. My plan is to immerse myself before I go. I'm going to read 1 paragraph per day and I'm going to listen to 2 hours of Brazilian Portuguese per day. That might not sound like a lot, but when you're working and your brain feels like it's stretching to soak up more information, 3 hours is going to be really difficult.

Read more »

A Month after Brasil

It's been a month since I went to Brasil. I am planning on going back, learning as quickly as I can. It's likely that I won't be able to make it back until next winter, but I will plan on it. I need to stay in touch with the friends I made over there. There are many conferences that I can attend to make my stay work-related, but the plane ticket is my main expense. I'm planning on keeping my Brasilian telephone number and giving it to my friends so that they can call me for cheap or free. Of course they can call me on Skype for free as well. We're lucky that we live in such a well-connected society, it's just up to us to stay in touch.

A video I watched today said that Vila Prudente is a favela. I actually visited that neighborhood while I was there and didn't think it was a favela. If that is the definition of a favela, then my eyes deceive me. Certainly the neighborhood may be much poorer than some of the neighborhoods I visited, but it looks quite beautiful (see the street view if you want to know what I mean). Maybe that is the definition of the favela, poverty in a beautiful place. It didn't connect with me that there would be any crime in that neighborhood. The video is about how the residents are getting people involved with documentary films.

What's new with me? Well, since I'm back in Seattle, I may start up yet another blog at blog.altsci.com (not started yet) which will keep a little more info on my day to day and will collect all the other blogs. One problem I have is that I have too many blogs. In one way it's good to separate topics but on the other hand most people who visit my blog are looking for me rather than my topic. I would love to attract more people interested in my subject matter but maybe I should post more subject matter. I can do that.

Read more »

next »